If ever there was a vitamin that proved without a doubt that your skin is made, modified and healed by nutrients, it’s vitamin C. Scientists have demonstrated for more than a century that your skin literally falls apart if you don’t consume enough vitamin C. 1 And vitamin C deficiency is not just an ancient sailor’s disease, Americans today still suffer from scurvy according to the research — and it’s usually linked to poor diet, poverty or fussy eating habits. 2 But why I love this vitamin is its natural antihistamine properties, as it destroys the imidazole ring of the histamine molecule. For this reason it’s imperative that allergy sufferers take vitamin C to avoid developing vitamin C deficiency. Some people with severe histamine intolerance (such as mast cell activation syndrome) may adversely react to regular vitamin C but they can try liposomal vitamin C as it is usually well tolerated (but check the excipients as it can contain soy). For the rest of us, ascorbic acid works well and you can also eat papaya, cabbage and Brussels sprouts which contain plenty of this skinsaving vitamin.
Vitamin C: dosages and food sources
Molybdenum is the great detoxifier. It is essential for liver detoxification as it activates the enzyme sulphite oxidase, which detoxifies sulphites (also known as sulfites) in the liver. When you don’t have enough molybdenum to create this important enzyme, sulphite sensitivity reactions can occur such as alcohol intolerance, hives, wheezing, asthma, skin discolouration, eczema, dermatitis, swelling and diarrhoea (and in some cases, anaphylaxis).37 Molybdenum also helps the liver to safely metabolize drugs and toxins.38 For example, if you have a Candida albicans infestation in your gut (from eating high-sugar foods), a toxin called acetaldehyde is produced during candida die-off. This toxin can cause fatigue, foggy brain function, joint pain and skin inflammation. However, taking molybdenum can reduce the adverse symptoms from candida die-off as it helps the liver to deactivate acetaldehyde. Deficiency signs of molybdenum include intolerance reactions (to sulphites, alcohol, wine and vinegar), acne, allergies, asthma, rapid heart rate, multiple chemical intolerances and sensitivity to mould and yeast. » People with gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease or gluten intolerance can end up with molybdenum deficiency. » Take molybdenum along with vitamin B6, vitamin B5 and zinc to help your liver detoxify chemicals.
Molybdenum dosages and food sources
You could say that calcium is like Batman: ready to defend and protect your skin, bones and teeth. But even Batman needs a good wingman and it was Lucius Fox who made the Batmobile to transport him around Gotham City … without the Batmobile, how effective could Batman really be? Likewise, calcium needs magnesium (see p. 58). Magnesium transports calcium into your teeth and bones, where it needs to go, and without it calcium could be left floating around your arteries. So don’t take calcium without magnesium — it’s that important. Together, calcium and magnesium calm the nervous system so you feel chilled and have a better night’s sleep. But did you know they also play a starring role in the quest for beautiful skin? » Calcium is needed for proper skin barrier function and damage to the skin barrier causes a decrease in calcium.24 Defects in the skin barrier are seen in conditions such as eczema and severe dry skin. » Calcium is needed to promote the ‘acid mantle’ (an acidic pH) on your outer skin layer, which is like the fortress that wards off microbes and infections on your skin. As you age, the acid mantle declines and calcium levels decrease.25 » Your skin must also respond to weather extremes, and in low humidity (dry weather) calcium helps to maintain the right amount of moisturising lipids by triggering their production when required. These lipids are water-resistant so they trap water in the skin so it does not dry out; so calcium is essential for people with dry skin. » Low calcium levels in the epidermis layer of your skin hamper the natural exfoliating process so dead skin cells build up, leading to premature ageing and dry and dull skin.
Calcium dosages and food sources
Known as ‘the great relaxer’ magnesium is an essential mineral needed to keep more than 300 enzyme reactions working in your body.19 It’s one of the most important minerals you can take for good health and it could literally save your life. Why? Because you need magnesium to regulate your blood pressure, reduce the risk of blocked arteries and balance blood glucose, and it’s essential for muscle contraction, energy production and bone development.20 Magnesium deficiency can cause an irregular heartbeat (cardiac arrhythmia) and in some hospitals, magnesium is administered via drip to patients with atrial fibrillation.21 Magnesium also helps to guard against asthma attacks,22 especially when combined with vitamin B6 as it boosts the absorption of magnesium and helps to open the airways.
But let’s talk skin health: magnesium could be your new bff because it helps you to manage stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to sleep issues and premature ageing. Magnesium also boosts beauty sleep — it regulates melatonin to help your sleep–wake cycle and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to promote that chilled out feeling. If your body is low in magnesium, your cortisol levels stay elevated which can interfere with sleep.23 Magnesium supplementation can be used therapeutically to decrease food chemical intolerances when combined with calcium carbonate, glycine and vitamin B6.
Magnesium dosages and food sources
Hello healthy skin, hair and nails. When I think of biotin, I think ‘beauty nutrient’ as it improves the thickness and hardness of brittle nails and helps to prevent hair loss and acne, when deficiency is present.5 And did I mention skin rashes? Since the 1940s it has been well established that biotin deficiency can trigger the appearance of eczema, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis and oral dermatitis.6 While not all cases of skin rashes are caused by biotin deficiency, this B-group vitamin is an essential part of any treatment program for skin inflammation because it supports skin health. Biotin from food sources is usually attached to protein and is poorly absorbed by the body, so biotin supplementation has shown to be a more effective remedy once deficiency signs have appeared. » Biotin deficiency was found in 38 per cent of people with alopecia (non-hereditary hair loss).7 » Biotin stimulates epidermal cell differentiation and growth in the skin.8 » Avoid eating raw eggs as it can lead to biotin deficiency: the avidin present in raw egg whites attaches to biotin, which prevents its absorption.9 Take biotin with vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc to reduce skin inflammation, as together they aid the conversion of omega-6 and omega-3 fats into healthy, anti-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins (PGE1 and PGE3).
Biotin dosages and food sources
Zinc is one of those magic minerals that your skin absolutely needs for wound repair and skin health and maintenance. Zinc is essential for infant and childhood growth and development.10 And during your teenage years, rapid growth spurts require lots of zinc and this growth period (teamed with a poor diet) can lead to zinc deficiency, which can result in acne. Acne occurs because the skin’s oil gland activity is regulated by zinc — so no zinc equals oily skin and clogged pores that can become inflamed.
A healthy, zinc-rich diet is essential during your teen years and beyond. Unfortunately modern western diets that are dominated by packaged food, refined flour and sugar are linked with the increasing appearance of acne, according to epidemiological evidence, which shows that teenagers in traditional tribal cultures do not get acne.11 But in Australia and the United States, even four-year-olds and mature adults are suffering from acne due to our poor diets. And this could explain why: zinc, magnesium, B vitamins and amino acids including glycine are required by the liver to clear excess hormones from your blood, so a deficiency in these helper nutrients can lead to acne, not the presence of hormones, which are a natural part of growing up. Let’s look at the research:
Early-stage zinc deficiency can appear as atopic dermatitis.12
Skin lesions, dry and rough skin that looks like crazy paving, and delayed wound healing can occur during zinc deficiency.13
Severe zinc deficiency can induce acne, blister-like dermatitis, nail changes, diarrhoea and hair loss.14
Zinc gluconate supplementation has the ability to clear up inflammatory acne and treat hidradenitis suppurativa.15
Zinc supplementation can be used to treat warts and leprosy.16
Topical zinc creams can be used to treat warts and foul smelling sweat.17
People with acne should avoid dairy products, chocolate and high GI foods that spike blood sugar levels (such as processed breakfast cereals, jasmine rice and sodas) as they can trigger breakouts.18
Zinc dosage — less is more
We as health practitioners love zinc — it’s in right now. However, Scottish researchers found that 62 per cent of patients were prescribed far too much zinc by their health practitioner. The lack of understanding that zinc-induced copper deficiency can cause a range of serious health issues is far too common. Copper, while not a trendy mineral, is essential for collagen production and DAO enzyme production, which is vital to clear histamine from the body. Zinc can be your best beauty buy, but stick to the right therapeutic amount so the body remains in balance. See the following chart for correct zinc dosing and check the dosage before you purchase any supplement— even if it’s prescribed to you.
Zinc dosages and food sources
If I were a cell (in the human body), this would be the love of my life. It’s probably the closest thing to the fountain of youth that we’ll ever find, as it helps to even out mottled skin pigmentation, reduces the risk of age-related diseases, reduces the appearance of age spots and calms skin inflammation (when combined with several other key nutrients). Glutathione is a vital regulator of immune function.39 It’s often referred to as the body’s master antioxidant as it’s needed in most human cells to protect us from oxidative stress, which can damage our bodies like rust ages a car. Glutathione is made by a healthy body from glycine, cysteine and glutamate. Your levels can fluctuate throughout the day and they are depleted by consuming tea, coffee, dairy products and most grains. Smoking, medical drugs and alcohol consumption also deplete your glutathione levels as glutathione is required to detoxify these substances. I’ve seen long-term use of glutathione supplements remove uneven skin pigmentation and age spots — it’s quite remarkable, but if you stop taking it the age spots quickly return. It’s an expensive ingredient but what would you expect to pay for the fountain of youth?
Glutathione dosages and food sources
People with dry skin take note: you can quite literally hydrate your skin from the inside out with omega-3, a type of essential fatty acid that is, well, essential … It’s not just a beauty fad, omega-3 is absolutely essential for a healthy heart, skin health and mental wellbeing. Pretty skin is merely a bonus. And the research backs this up: scientists gave two groups of women flaxseed oil or borage oil for twelve weeks, and a third group received a placebo, which was olive oil. After six weeks of consuming only half a teaspoon of flaxseed oil, skin water loss decreased by 10 per cent. While the olive oil group had no change in skin hydration and skin health at twelve weeks, the flaxseed oil group had skin that was significantly more hydrated and smoother and the women had significantly less skin reddening after irritation.35
Potent anti-inflammatory substances called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are omega-3 in its more potent form, help to calm skin inflammation, reduce skin sensitivity and enhance the immune system.36
EPA and DHA are found in algae and seafood, especially salmon, trout and sardines.
While omega-3 is essential, if you have acne you should get your omega-3 from fish and other omega-3 rich foods, and avoid oil supplements as your skin is already oily enough.
Omega-3 dosages and food sources
Support mental health and wellbeing with niacin, which plays an important role in the wellness of your skin, digestive tract and brain. In fact, deficiency of this important vitamin can literally make you feel crazy with memory loss (dementia), diarrhoea and a skin rash known as dermatitis.30 In the old days it was referred to as pellagra, which means ‘rough skin’, a disease that occurred in countries where corn or Indian millet (which are naturally devoid of niacin) dominated the diet.31 Pellagra still occurs today in alcoholics, psychiatric patients, fussy eaters and people who eat poorly.32 Niacin deficiency signs include skin rashes, constipation, diarrhoea, confusion, red skin, headaches, digestive problems, mouth ulcers, memory problems, anxiety, depression and/or paranoia.33 To diagnose pellagra, ask for a 24-hour urine test to check the level of N-methylnicotinamide. It can take six months to restore niacin levels once deficiency signs have occurred so if you have clear symptoms, nicotinamide supplementation is required as eating a niacin-rich diet won’t be enough.
How much niacin is enough?
In the average person, 10–16 mg is more than enough. In fact, less is best when it comes to taking any B vitamin in supplement form as taking too much of one leads to deficiency in another B vitamin. And you need all of your B vitamins for a healthy body. Some naturopaths recommend doing a ‘niacin flush’ where you take high doses of niacin (up to 50 mg), which causes a whole-body hot flush as the blood vessels dilate. It’s an uncomfortable experience that can cause a mighty migraine afterwards! But what flush devotees don’t realise is it also triggers prostaglandin PGE2 production, which temporarily increases inflammation in the body.34 So you want to take just the right amount of nicotinamide plus the entire range of B-group vitamins (from B1 to B12) so your whole body is in balance and inflammation is supressed. Most multivitamins and B-vitamin supplements contain far too much niacin and other B vitamins, which is why people with skin inflammation such as eczema can adversely react to these products. Use the following table to find out how much niacin/nicotinamide to take.
Niacin dosages and food sources
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
I have a deep respect for vitamin B6: it’s anti-allergy, liver and heart protective and a humble servant to aid magnesium absorption. Plus it’s essential for a normal functioning immune system and good mental health as it’s required by your body to make ‘feel-good’ chemicals, including serotonin. Deficiency signs include skin lesions, seborrheic dermatitis, cracks at the corners of the mouth, lethargy, sore tongue and dermatitis, which is a dry, scaly skin rash.3 » Pyridoxine is a natural antihistamine as it is needed to produce DAO, so it’s a useful supplement for people with allergies and skin rashes. » Vitamin B6 helps the liver detoxify chemicals by assisting the liver with deactivating and eliminating ingested salicylates, benzoic acids, food preservatives, monosodium glutamate (MSG), alcohol and heavy metals. » Vitamin B6 is essential for normal fat metabolism and, as a result, a deficiency in vitamin B6 can raise cholesterol levels and cause fatty liver.4
A word against B vitamin megadosing
Supplementation of vitamin B6 is vital for people with skin problems but unfortunately most supplement manufacturers go overboard when it comes to B vitamins. They do this so you feel a buzz when taking the product, but it’s not doing you good long-term. Less is more when it comes to healing your body. Below are some guidelines so you can get the best results from taking vitamin B6 for beautiful skin and a healthy body.
Vitamins B6 dosages and food sources
1. Hodges, R.E. et al. 1969, ‘Experimental scurvy in man’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 22 (5), pp 535–48.
2. Velandia, B., Centor, R.M., McConnell, V. and Shah, M. 2008, ‘Scurvy is still present in developed countries’, Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23 (8), p. 1281; Wang, A.H. and Still, C 2007, ‘Old world meets modern: A case report of scurvy’, Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 22 (4), pp. 445–8; Holley, A.D., Osland, E., Barnes, J., Krishnan, A. and Fraser, J.F. 2011, ‘Scurvy: Historically a plague of the sailor that remains a consideration in the modern intensive care unit’, Internal Medicine Journal, 41 (3), pp. 283–5; Wijkmans, R.A. and Talsma, K. 2016, ‘Modern scurvy’, Journal of Surgical Case Reports, (1), p. rjv168.
3. Brown, M.J. and Beier, K. 2018, ‘Vitamin B6 deficiency (Pyridoxine)’, in StatPearls [Internet], StatPearls Publishing; Vilter, R.W., Mueller, J.F., Glazer, H.S., Jarrold, T., Abraham, J., Thompson, C. and Hawkins, V.R. 1953, ‘The effect of vitamin B6 deficiency induced by desoxypyridoxine in human beings’, Journal of laboratory and clinical medicine, 42 (3), pp. 335– 57; Gilson, R.C., Wallis, L., Yeh, J. and Gilson, R.T. 2018, ‘Dementia, diarrhea, desquamating shellaclike dermatitis revealing late-onset cobalamin C deficiency’, JAAD case reports, 4 (1), p. 91.
4. Cabrini, L., et.al. 1998, ‘Vitamin B6 deficiency affects antioxidant defences in rat liver and heart’, IUBMB Life, 46 (4), pp. 689–97.
5. Piraccini, B.M., Berardesca, E., Fabbrocini, G., Micali, G. and Tosti, A. 2019, ‘Biotin: overview of the treatment of diseases of cutaneous appendages and of hyperseborrhea’, Giornale italiano di dermatologia e venereologia: organo ufficiale, Societa italiana di dermatologia e sifilografia, 154 (5), pp. 557–66; Lipner, S.R. and Scher, R.K. 2018, ‘Biotin for the treatment of nail disease: What is the evidence?’ Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 29 (4), pp. 411–14.
6. Sydenstricker, V.P., Singal, S.A., Briggs, A.P., DeVaughn, N.M. and Isbell, H. 1942, ‘Observations on the egg white injury in man: And its cure with a biotin concentrate’, Journal of the American Medical Association, 118 (14), pp. 1199–1200; Gilson, R.C., Wallis, L., Yeh, J. and Gilson, R.T. 2018; Lip
7. Trüeb, R.M. 2016, ‘Serum biotin levels in women complaining of hair loss’, International Journal of Trichology, 8 (2), p. 73.
8. Lipner, S.R. and Scher, R.K. 2018.
9. Sydenstricker, V.P. et al. 1942.
10. Gupta, M., Mahajan, V.K., Mehta, K.S. and Chauhan, P.S. 2014, ‘Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review’, Dermatology research and practice, 2014.
11. Cordain, L., Lindeberg, S., Hurtado, M., Hill, K., Eaton, S.B. and BrandMiller, J. 2002, ‘Acne vulgaris: A disease of Western civilization’, Archives of Dermatology, 138 (12), pp. 1584–90.
12. Foster, R. 2019, ‘Zinc deficiency and the skin’, Australasian College of Dermatologists, retrieved from www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/zincdeficiency-skin.
13. Gupta, M.et al. 2014; Foster, R. 2019.
14. Gupta, M. et al. 2014; Foster, R. 2019.